Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer – Safety

Wednesday, November 27 by JerryFoster

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

Not only do traffic engineers prioritize safety lower than residents, the designs that supposedly increase safety cause more death and destruction. Why? Because motorists behave differently than engineers expect.

In 2012, there were 33,561 traffic fatalities, including 4743 pedestrians and 726 cyclists.

Traffic engineers? safety improvements include paving wider lanes and shoulders, removing roadside trees, straightening tight curves, etc.? According to AASHTO standards, ?every effort should be made to use as high a design speed as practical to attain a desired degree of safety.?

Traffic engineers believe that designing for high speed will provide safety.

The crash data, however, show ?wider lanes and shoulders were associated with statistically significant increases in crash frequencies.?

Noland reports that traditional ?road ?safety improvements? actually lead to ? increases in total fatalities and injuries,? because ?this type of approach tends to ignore behavioural reactions to safety improvements?.

Dumbaugh reports that ?a behavior-based understanding of safety performance is supported by research and literature in the field of psychology, which has focused on the subject of traffic safety as a means for understanding how individuals adapt their behavior to perceived risks and hazards.?

Marohn calls the traditional approach to safety ?professional malpractice?.

Despite WWBPA recommendations, the design for Rt 571 in downtown West Windsor follows the traditional approach – 45mph design speed, another lane and wide shoulders – all in the name of bicycle and pedestrian safety.

We?ve seen that traffic engineers might improve safety by becoming better social scientists. Before following that, however, our next installment of Learning to Love Your Traffic Engineer will look at cost.

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Proposed Route 571 Main Street Design Unsafe

Tuesday, September 13 by JerryFoster

571/Wallace-Cranbury morning commute 2The WWBPA responded to the county’s proposed CR 571 Main Street design recently, maintaining that it is unsafe for everyone: motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike. In the past 10 years, two pedestrians were killed on this stretch of roadway (2004 and 2005), while no motorists were killed.? A 17-year-old motorist was killed in 2006, however, just west of downtown Princeton Junction, when she lost control of her car on the curve coming off the bridge over the train tracks.

The proposed wider-straighter-faster design does nothing to address these safety issues. Instead, it preserves the current 45mph design speed and 40mph posted speed limit. Drivers don’t respect crosswalks when they have to slow from high speed, and the proposed design does nothing to provide pedestrian refuges in the center of the roadway to promote safe crossing.

Rt 571 Concept Illustration

The design also features a new two-way center left turn lane (TWLTL) that studies have shown to be unsafe; AARP calls them “suicide lanes.” One study even showed that artificially lowering the posted speed limit, but not the design speed, caused an increase in crashes.

Picture 7

Here’s a picture of Hamilton’s SR 33 that most resembles what is planned. The 45mph design speed is simply not appropriate for the pedestrian friendly Main Street that our Redevelopment Plan envisions. A survey of other Mercer County towns shows that Princeton, Lawrenceville, Hightstown, Hopewell and Pennington all have 25 – 30mph speed limits on their Main Streets. Why not in West Windsor?

The WWBPA is not just opining, and we’re not just complaining – our response, and our recommendations based on the December 2009 Public Review, are founded on research and guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Transportation. We are recommending constructive, Complete Streets alternatives to remedy the safety issues and make a Main Street that we can all be proud of.

The current design shows why Mercer County should adopt a Complete Streets policy to complement the state and West Windsor township policies – our transportation network needs jurisdictions with consistent policies to benefit our taxpayers.

Thanks to everyone who has gotten involved to support our position! We appreciate all of you who have signed our petition at the Farmers’ Market, or who have contacted the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, which recently conducted public outreach on this and other federally-funded projects.

More help is needed. Please contact our public officials to support our position. With a lower design speed and pedestrian refuges, our senior residents can cross Route 571 safely to the new Rite Aid, and our children can cross Route 571 safely to the new ex-Acme shopping center, as well as to the high school. And our teenage drivers should be able to keep control of their vehicles when going more slowly. Everyone benefits.

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